Interview with Jobs’ Josh Gad

Josh Gad, the stage and screen actor who plays Steve Wozniak in the new biopic Jobs, chats with Den of Geek about researching the Apple co-founder and taking on such an important (and famous) role.

Just as Steve Jobs’ name recognition came with a lot of help from his friends, Ashton Kutcher has a litany of talent supporting him through his starring role as Steve Jobs in the new film, Jobs. Embodying the role of Apple’s co-creator, Steve Wozniak, stage and screen talent Josh Gad (Love & Other Drugs, The Book of Mormon) was tasked with playing the one person who might have been more proactive in creating Steve Jobs’ success than the legend himself. We jumped on a quick call with Mr. Gad to talk about all things Wozniak and what’s it’s like to play such an important role. Den of Geek: How familiar were you with Steve Wozniak before joining the movie? Was there something specific that drew you to the role? Josh Gad: When I read the script, I was not aware of the Apple universe pre the introduction of the iPod. For me, the journey of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and all of these guys who helped build Apple, was fascinating. As an actor it was also an amazing opportunity to sink my teeth into a role that would be unique and dynamic in a way that I haven’t been able to play before, simply by virtue that this is a living, breathing person. It’s an immense challenge that you take very seriously and it was fun to really go and do something like this coming off something like The Book of Mormon, which is the complete opposite. That’s what really drew me to it. I was excited about telling a story about this icon that meant a huge deal to me and that I can only imagine means a huge deal to many others. DoG: How did you prepare for the role? Did you have the chance to meet or talk to Wozniak?  Gad: I prepared for the role like you would if you prepared for the SATs the night before you took them for the first time. I had a month long process up to the first day of filming when I first found out I got the role. So I dove in headfirst and did as much research as was humanely possible. I watched over 200 hours worth of footage, I listened to audio recordings and so on. It’s an amazing resource, something like YouTube; you have essentially four-plus decades of somebody’s life that’s chronicled for you online. Doing that work and then obviously reading as much literature as possible; everything from Woz’s autobiography, iWoz, to other books, to a lot of other material. I even took soldering courses; never thought I was going to do that in acting college. I also took computer-programming courses, just to give myself a flavor of what that world is. If you ask me to program something now, I could probably program my air conditioner to turn on to 65 degrees and that’s about it. Though it gave me the opportunity to see what that world is, to understand that world, so I could be as authentic as possible in the confines of the script. Still, we took all that research and kind of let it go. You know, we’re there to service the story, and in this story the director really wanted Woz to function as the conscious to Steve Jobs. So this journey that he’s going on has this emotional dynamic, so it doesn’t just become this type of movie of the week, that A&E type of documentary, but instead something that the audience has a little bit more of an emotional investment in. DoG: I think it was about the time one of the first trailers came out, but I remember Woz was initially kind of critical about the film based on what he saw in the trailer… Gad: Kind of going back to something I actually didn’t answer earlier that will dovetail into this answer: Yes, I did reach out to Steve Wozniak, the film reached out on my behalf multiple times. No, Steve Wozniak did not consult on the film because he’s actually consulting on a competing Jobs film, of which I imagine there will be many down the road. I understood that, and I understood the nature of the business, and it was disappointing to me because I certainly do admire, respect, and revere this man that I was given this immense opportunity to play. I also completely understand how somebody would be critical of anybody playing them and I respect that. I don’t know that if somebody was playing me I would be like, “Yup, that’s exactly who I am.” Especially if there are foibles in that performance. I respect him, I get it, I understand his criticisms. I’d love for him to see the film in its entirety before he comes out and makes a judgment, and I would also put out there that, again he’s working on a competing film, and there might be a conflict of interest that comes along with that, I don’t know. So I definitely think you have to take those things into account when addressing the criticisms that Steve Wozniak has for the film. Having said that, I love and admire him and would love the opportunity to sit down and talk with him at some point. DoG: Though you may have touched on it already, how do you balance the demand of playing such an icon accurately while at the same time wanting to put your own spin on the performance? Gad: There’s an old adage in the conservatory of Carnegie Melon drama, which is, “You need to do two weeks of work non-stop and then you need to let it all go.” It was a very complicated statement when I was in school; it’s not something that you understand immediately. Then when you start doing a project like this, where you can easily become a slave to impersonation, it immediately makes sense. What I mean by that is: You have to do all the work because there are so many historical records. It’s not like you’re studying Abraham Lincoln where nobody really knows everything about him. There’s now video or audio history of what that man sounded like, of how he walked, etc. We have an oral history of it, but people can’t click on a button and check that stuff out. With Steve Wozniak, people can readily go online to ABC.com and watch video of Dancing With the Stars. I had to make sure that I understood what made Steve Wozniak, Steve Wozniak. I understood the vocal and physical implications of playing somebody like that, but at the end of the day, I’m an actor in a larger story that’s there to facilitate the director’s vision, right? So that’s how I functioned. I did all my homework, and then I tried to embody him as best as I saw fit within the confines of the world and the story that we were telling. DoG: You may be there to as you say,”…to facilitate the director’s vision,” but where there aspects of the man you learned through your research that you tried to bring into playing him as a character? Gad: Yes, there were a lot things based on my research that, well disappointed is the wrong word, but there were things we could not include because we were bound by the limitations of a two-hour narrative Hollywood film where you couldn’t really dig in to the entire dynamic because it’s not the Steve Jobs/Steve Wozniak storyline; the movie’s called Jobs. There was stuff that I read along the way that I wish we could have accounted for, and it’s still a disappointment, because it’s stuff I wish we could have explored more. There were moments where the director and the screenwriter were very amenable. For instance, there’s a scene early on in the film where Steve comes over to my place and he sees this motherboard that I’ve been working on and it sparked this idea in him that, “Oh my god, we’ve got to do something with this.” There was never a reference in the entire script to the fact that Steve Wozniak was and is in actuality one of the most playful, prankster-like people that I’ve ever read about or have known about. In his book, he talks about this idea that he had. You know, he’s the creator or one of the co-creators of one of the most important inventions of the 20th century, and yet at the same time, the thing that he’s proudest of in this book is this Polish joke machine that he had. This machine that when you called up, would literally rattle off a Polish joke. I found that to be such fascinating insight into the character that I called everyone up the night before we shot that scene and I said, “I know we can’t account for this in a scene and make it all about that, but I would at least love it if we could have this in the background. That this is what Woz is working on when Steve comes over.” It was little things like that that we really tried along the way to infuse in it to give it that absolute touch of authenticity, knowing very well that people who know this world inside and out, of which there are many, are going to have problems with the fact that we didn’t do more, or why didn’t we address Steve’s time at Pixar, or why didn’t we explore the fact that Steve Wozniak was in a plane crash that caused amnesia, that really fueled his desire to step away from the world of Apple. It would have been really lovely to explore all of those things. If we could, we would have made a three-picture anthology of the man, but due to limitations of finances, we couldn’t. I think that the director and the writer tried to do as much as they could given the limitations of the medium, and I’m eternally grateful to them for listening to Ashton and I along the way, so that any of those opportunities where we would try to infuse it with just a little bit more authenticity, were paid off.